Quit Smoking Cold Turkey —By Fred H. Kelley


One of the most popular and well-known ways smokers choose to quit smoking is what is known as “cold turkey.” The phrase cold turkey is universally understood to mean to quit smoking abruptly, often without forethought or preparation, nor a gradual reduction in amount smoked. Most people also assume cold turkey means to quit smoking without using any smoking cessation aids such as nicotine gum or patches.

The origins of the phrase cold turkey are not completely clear but some quick searches online reveal several explanations.

One site states, “The state addicts are in when withdrawing from drug addition, especially heroin. Origin: In the state of drug withdrawal the addicts blood is directed to the internal organs leaving the skin white and with goose bumps and thus resembling a turkey.” (http://www.idiomsite.com/coldturkey.htm)

Another site explains, “This phrase meaning “without preparation” dates to 1910. The use in relation to withdrawal from an addictive substance (originally heroin) dates to around 1922. The derivation is from the idea that cold turkey is a food that requires little preparation in the kitchen. So to quit like cold turkey is to do so suddenly and without preparation. It is also boosted by the image of the pallid flesh of a cold, dead, plucked turkey. In the state of drug withdrawal the addicts blood is directed to the internal organs leaving the skin white and with goose bumps and thus resembling a turkey.” (http://www.allexperts.com/previousqv.asp?QuestionID=2633904)

Yet another site says, “‘Cold turkey’ is actually based on another colloquial phrase, “to talk turkey” (sometimes “to talk cold turkey”), meaning to face unpleasant truths squarely. It’s not entirely clear how turkeys came to be associated with honesty and straightforward confrontation of difficulties, but it may simply be that turkey farmers were renowned at one time for their lack of pretense and blunt speech.” (http://www.word-detective.com/back-p.html)

Whatever the actual origin, quitting smoking cold turkey is probably the most popular, while not necessarily the most successful, method for quitting. It may also be the most challenging due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms the new ex-smoker faces.

You can improve your chances for permanently quitting with the cold turkey method if you follow a few guidelines:

  • Understand that withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, tiredness and more, may be fairly intense, but they will lessen after just a few days.
  • Drink lots of water to help your body flush itself out quickly.
  • Keep a straw or other cigarette substitute handy to keep your hands and mouth busy.
  • When cravings hit, close your eyes and count down from 10 to 0, very slowly. Breathe deeply with each count.
  • Call a friend when you feel like reaching for a smoke. Divert your attention.
  • Take a quick walk, even if it is just to the bathroom or mailbox.

Superhuman willpower is often associated with using cold turkey to quit smoking. While having strong willpower is important, ultimately your success depends on how badly you want to quit and whether or not you believe you can do it. If you want to quit more than you want to smoke, and you believe that you can quit, you’ll likely be successful.

The cold turkey method is free, and you can do it at any time. Why not today?

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